I had a dream last night that seemed to drag on and on. It started somewhere in the middle of the night, I would awaken in my restlessness for a moment, fall back asleep, and it would resume where it had left off. This happened several times until I roused myself this morning. The scenario was different, but the character in it was someone I’m very familiar with. I’ve dreamt of him often over the years. How could I not? He was a man I loved that I never told. The only one in the history of the many men I’ve had in my life as friends and lovers that I never had the courage to share my feelings with. No one knew. Well, I guess some-one did.
I get edgy, nervous, full of emotion around this time of year. My best friend, Beth’s, birthday will be in eight more days. I say will, because although she may no longer be here I still celebrate this day for her. I still celebrate her life every day. I sit here now unable to stop the waterworks, only wishing that I were able to cram thirty years of memories into this post so all of you could see who she was and celebrate her life with me. And celebrate it you would. If only I had the ability to paint a picture that would show how she could walk into a room and light it up; make the crowd her own. She was never second-glance beautiful, but she could steal the attention away from someone far prettier than her. I know, I spent nearly my entire life in her shadow. And that was okay because I bathed in her magic while I watched. Wherever we went people flocked to her; men wanted to be with her, and I saw the envy in the eyes of women who wished they could be like her. Her presence was nothing short of intoxicating. This little, 4’11 woman who weighed nary enough to keep the wind from taking her in flight, had the ability to control an entire crowd just with her personality. She was, and I don’t take this word lightly, the most audacious woman I’ve ever met. I never once in all the years we were friends saw her back down from a challenge because it seemed too hard, a fight because the person seemed too intimidating, loving someone because they seemed unworthy, helping someone because it was inconvenient, or forgiving someone because the deed they’d committed had been too much to forgive. To this day, almost three years after her death, I still aspire to be a tenth of a woman that she was. She took all this with her when she died…and secrets too numerous to count. Most were mistakes we made we only felt comfortable sharing with the other, some were just embarrassing moments we hoped no one would ever find out about, and then others…well, they were important enough to take to the grave. At least she thought so anyway. The fact is I never told this person how I felt about him, because she wouldn’t let me.
I know this seems ridiculous and almost inconsequential now. I mean, what good is going to come from my saying anything at this point, right? I’m married and have a life. And the relationship he and I have brinks on friendly, but has never really materialized into much. A large part of it has to do with how our relationship started, later who it involved, and largely in part to the lifestyle that he chose to have. It’s hard to become close to someone who’s life you have nothing but childhood memories in common with. Still, it bothers me. I believe because I left it unfinished and feel like I’ve been deceitful all these years in pretending that I felt nothing and could take him or leave him. I had to though. First it was to save my pride and reputation. Then it became about Beth. Though a bit younger than me and several inches shorter, she always thought herself more worldly, wiser, and able to see the forest for the trees more clearly than I could. She said I loved too much and made myself vulnerable. She looked out for me. And although she couldn’t control everything I did and all the men I chose to love and make mistakes with, she was vehement about this one. I laughed and told her it wouldn’t matter one way or the other to him really, and that he had never taken me seriously so what harm could come of it. Still she felt enough apprehension there to keep me from saying the words in his presence aloud. She loved him too, but knew he was bad for me. Bad mainly because of history and she spotted that weakness in me. You see…he is her brother.
I can’t explain why this seems so important to me right now. Why, in fact, so many inconsequential things do. Perhaps because I’ve been getting honest with myself about my past, my present, who I really am, what I’m entitled to have and the emotions I’m entitled to feel. I’m starting to own everything in my life, it’s suddenly happening all at once, is very scary, but I don’t want to stop it. There has to be a reason for this desire I have to speak the truth or I wouldn’t be wrestling with it and dreaming about him again, right? A part of me wonders how much of it has to do with the fact Beth’s birthday is approaching. Or could it be that his life is in such a place right now where it would do him good to hear that there was someone who cared about him and believed in him all these years despite the extremes he went to in showing everyone that he was not worthy of a woman’s love and respect? Does he need someone to say “I know you’ve been able to fool everyone else all these years, but I know who you really are inside, and you are a remarkable person who has a big heart.”? Maybe it was triggered when I looked at my son as he sat in prison and know everyone around him thinks he’s hardcore, tough, has led a seedy life, and probably counts him out completely, and yet I can see right through that guise and know that he’s nothing like that at all. But more important I know he counts on me to believe different about him, so he doesn’t start believing what others do and completely give up on himself.
I’m grasping really…looking for an excuse just to come clean with what I’ve been carrying and then bury it again with Beth. It truly isn’t about him anymore, but only about me. I never stirred that something inside of him that I did many other men. He never looked at me in that special way, or took me seriously. I made the mistake early on of not being the challenge that he apparently needed to hold his interest. I was sixteen, naive, wide-eyed and thought him The Shit. I just wanted to be with him and didn’t have the wisdom and foresight to know I/it meant nothing to him. And though I thought I’d made my peace with this long ago when I took my power back by being the aggressor and used him. I guess I hadn’t. I thought it was enough to walk out that door after without so much as a goodbye kiss, a “I’ll call ya soon” promise, or even a recognition that the deed had ever occurred. It was about pride. About letting him know that what he’d done meant nothing to me. It hadn’t broke or changed me in any way. I was a big girl, and I no longer allowed men to use me without my consent and without extending the same gratuity to them. I thought I’d conquered the emotions associated with being the sacrificial virgin for his teenage desires. And maybe I have. What I’ve never let go of though, is the fact that before that happened I saw something in him. I can’t explain it, other than he had that Beth magic. There was something more to him that he only allowed his family to see. Over the years I saw more and more of him through her eyes in spite of the view he gave his friends and the public. Perhaps this is why I couldn’t not be friendly with him and still to this day defend him to others when they would refer to him with negative connotations.
So what say people, do I have a right to purge myself of this? Should I shed this thirty-two year shame, crawl out from beneath the embarrassment and pride that I’ve hid under, and just tell him that what he did hurt me because I really cared for him? That for me it wasn’t just supposed to be a wham-bam-thankyou-mam? That my first husband was never my first choice even though he was better looking and more popular, but that I settled because I couldn’t have him? And that he royally screwed up his life with the drugs, the loose women who did them with him, has no wife or children to show for it now, but if he’d given me a chance to let me love him he could’ve had all those things and more? Do I have a right to open a wound in another just to heal my own?